According to Mr. Charles Dickens, Anastasia Piper is a minor character from "Bleak House" who testifies in a trial, briefly, for the truth. All else has been developed over the course of a quarter century journey with the Great Dickens Christmas Fair.
Who is Anastasia Piper? In her youth, she was no better than she should be, which is why her accent is a little broad...She fell headlong in love with the Bohemian lifestyle, and took up with an itinerant photographer. He died shortly after, of consumption, but not before Anastasia learned the photographic arts. At 24, the attractive widow was prepared to take London by storm with her photographic talents. She opened her first Photo Parlour near the docks. She could often be seen perched on her roller skates (one of the latest Victorian inventions which allowed a woman of modest means to get around town quickly).
Mrs. Piper's Photo Parlour became all the rage in London. She never quite lost her broad accent, but she became somewhat fashionable—'an original'. The Ton welcomed her with open arms. She danced with Dukes, and took portraits of the Queen. London's notables lined up to be photographed in her Parlour.
As the Photo Parlour grew in both size and reputation, she hired her staff from amongst the friends of her youth; she felt that their love of art gave them the best qualifications. She trained them in manners and the art of catering to her client's tastes. She had saucy clerks and fashionable lady's maids to dress her clients in the height of Victorian Fashion. Mrs. Piper, as she began to be called, practiced her art with gusto, photographing thousands of genteel travelers who graciously patronized her studio. Her portraits now grace many a mantle, and her practice encompasses generations.
Her distinctly unorthodox roots gave her a broad interest in the breadth of humanity, and Mrs. Piper expressed her photographic curiosity by taking pictures of some of London's underclass. Her portraiture captured the sweeps on the street, dance hall queens, working girls, and toffs on the town. She found her love of art taking her beyond the merely photographic, and she took up the paintbrush, putting to canvas the dancers and musicians of her Bohemian upbringing. There were certain racy rumours associated with this time, but nothing, of course, that passed the bounds of propriety.
Anastasia Piper fell in love late in life and settled down to a rather respectable living, raising her child, and teaching him the ways of London. This is Anastasia Piper today, with her son. You will find them both on the Grand Concourse in London today.